In the news: HS focus options questioned

8:16 am

Parent Rob Boime questions the emphasis on focus options in Portland Public Schools high school redesign plans in an op-ed in today’s Portland Tribune. Boime worries that plans to have upwards of 35 percent of students attend focus option schools would worsen inequities, and he urges planners put emphasis on community high schools first.

Boime’s commentary references an earlier news story by Jennifer Anderson, which examines Beaverton’s success with both focus options and neighborhood comprehensive schools.

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Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

filed under: Equity, High Schools, Media, School Board, School Closures

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64 Responses

  1. Comment from mom:

    As for the focus high schools, I have heard no mention of transportation.

    I was recently polled by phone concerning my opinion about focus or magnet school options and every question was prefaced with, “if transportation was provided…”

  2. Comment from Zarwen:


    The closethegap group has created signs that say “Don’t Mess With _______” for EVERY high school. They have also drafted an alternative resolution calling for NO CLOSURES.

    I think the “We paid a premium” group is in the minority. The people I have talked to want very much to join hands with families all across the city to say NO to the Supt. and School Board on closing or repurposing high schools. Overwhelmingly, the sentiment is to fix what is broken and leave alone what isn’t.

    Detailed info on the alternative resolution is available here:


    And signs for EVERY high school are available here:


    Also, a rally is planned tomorrow night at 6:15 at the BESC, right before the school board meeting. You’re all invited!

  3. Comment from pilbooster:

    Hard for me to take this group too seriously when they want all HS schools open but do not support limiting transfers between high schools. This is one of the fundamental causes of inequity in our high schools.

    PPS has least admitted a real problem, and has come up with some painfully general but some fundamentally new guidelines to start fixing the problem.

    Other than reducing the population at a few of the larger schools, the close the gap resolution appears to be supporting the present state of the Portland’s high schools.

    Unlike legitimate criticism such as Rob Boine’s excellent points about PPS’s fixation with focus option schools, I am not finding anything as useful in the close the gap resolution.

  4. Comment from Zarwen:

    Guess you didn’t read far enough, Pilbooster. There is a section of the document, on the next to last page, that calls for “changes” to the E & T system, limiting transfers to specific circumstances, one of them being federal requirements. Unfortunately, I could not copy and paste the text from the PDF, or I would have done so.

  5. Comment from pilbooster:

    Zarwen, I see your point.

    The close the gap resolution did not strike all the limiting transfer language from the PPS resolution but did eliminate this passage:

    “Transfers between community schools will be limited, in order to prevent a return to the enrollment and program imbalances of the current system. ”

    So I am now confused as to what they are actually intending. Why would they strike this language if they support limiting transfers?

  6. Comment from Bill:

    Zarwen, I read through that section (8e, correct?). It mentions those “specific circumstances”, but does not state that those are the only transfers that would be permitted. In fact, the crucial wording in the original document: “Transfers between community schools will be limited. . .,” was excised. Also, the goal of “balanced” enrollment was eliminated (leaving “stable”). Overall, the section supports rather than contradicts pilbooster’s position.

    The Close The Gap group does make a good case for keeping schools open. However, in order to close the achievement gap, you need to close the enrollment gap, and CtG does not offer a credible plan for how to make this happen.

  7. Comment from Susan:

    Also troubling is the deletion of almost all language regarding the necessity for new boundary considerations. Follow the money…?

  8. Comment from Zarwen:

    Well, my belief is that “new boundary considerations” will not be necessary if transfers are curtailed or eliminated. Our host, Steve Rawley, did a post some time ago reporting how many children of HS age live in each cluster. The numbers are surprisingly close given the economic and geographic disparities around town.

    As for the rest, I am not a spokesperson for closethegap, so I am sorry I am unable to answer.

  9. Comment from JD:

    I think the Close the Gap resolution is an excellent starting point. I don’t view it as solving all the problems with transfers and boundaries but it is the first step in keeping all our neighborhood schools open. If the board doesn’t close any schools, transfers and boundaries will still need to be addressed. As I understand it, the transfer issue is very convoluted with NCLB and focus schools in the mix. I can understand why that issue wasn’t tackled.

    Another interesting point I read somewhere else was that the closures are not only about re-setting the NCLB clocks but also to create swing schools for the high schools. Does this sound familiar?

  10. Comment from getrowdy:

    I can’t see school boundaries changing all that much when the school board seems to be stressing this ” no more than a twenty minute commute to school” concept. They’ll obviously have to change boundaries if a school( or schools )close, and they might do some minor tweeking to make it look like they’re diversifying our high schools but, overall, there will be little change here, in my opinion. And you’ll always find that ” unusual circumstances ” clause in PPS’s transfer policy…it’s a way for them to still do certain people certain favors and still be able to cover their _sses in case somethings ever questioned.

  11. Comment from Zarwen:

    I still think it’s really about freeing properties to sell. PCC has been trying to get Jefferson for years, and now we hear Warner-Pacific wants to buy Franklin. And Kaiser Permanente is interested too!

    If you read everything that PPS has been putting out, it’s a long stream of disingenuousness—at the end of the day, you can’t improve high schools until you improve the schools that feed into them. That is where the real mess lies, and that is what both PPS and the Board have been studiously avoiding for the past five years!

    I certainly agree that the Community Resolution is not perfect, and I definitely do not agree with everything in it, but what I don’t see is any other group stepping up and saying NO to closures.

  12. Comment from Carrie Adams:

    Anyone watching the board meeting? It would be hilarious if kid’s lives weren’t involved.

    If this was the board chair’s post it would be titled “High School Focus Options Questioned – Please Don’t Ask Any Questions”

  13. Comment from Steve Rawley:

    Carrie and all: I started a new thread to discuss tonight’s SB meeting…. this thread’s getting a little long.

  14. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    i can’t watch, it’s like, “Ouchie, my eyes!! Where do I put my eyes?” Carrie, I swear, if I wasn’t so tired i’d go all Mystery Science Theater 3000 with you on this meeting.